John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #90
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission
"The Lone Tiger" was published in the February 15, 1939 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Who is the Lone Tiger? He’s reputedly the hidden leader of the Tiger Mob, a man who may or may not actually exist. And it’s up to The Shadow to find out!
As our story opens, the final three members of the Tiger Mob are being sentenced in a court of law. Old Joseph Mileson has been responsible for the capture of the gang. Two years ago, they had raided his home in a robbery. As a result, his only daughter had died. Swearing he’d seek justice no matter what, Mileson spent the ensuing two years and his immense wealth tracking them down.
Now as the final three members of the gang are convicted, a vague whispery laugh echoes through the courtroom. Yes, The Shadow is present, watching the sentencing of the final gang members. But is there another? Rumors persist that there was a hidden head to the gang. A person none of the gang members ever admitted to. Someone of great power who could silence even convicted criminals. The only one left. The Lone Tiger! Could it be?
Joseph Mileson decides to find out. He offers one hundred thousand dollars for information leading to The Lone Tiger. He hires detectives to track down the slim clues. He only remembers a vague profile, outlined on the wall the night of the home invasion two years previous. It was a hideous sight that has burned itself into his memory: a nose that bulged outward like a vulture’s beak. A hooked nose, as ugly as the lips beneath it.
No one will talk about The Lone Tiger for fear of their lives. But perhaps, Mileson figures, the promise of one hundred thousand dollars will unseal some stubborn lips. And sure enough! Unfortunately, the few remaining henchmen who know of The Lone Tiger’s existance are quickly being killed, their lips sealed forever. It will take The Shadow to unmask the hidden mastermind who is out to remove all witnesses to his existance.
Assisting The Shadow in this story are nearly all of his agents. Cliff Marsland and Hawkeye help out with their extensive knowledge of the underworld. Harry Vincent, long-time agent, Moe Shrevnitz, cab driver extrordinaire, Clyde Burke, reporter for the New York Classic, Jericho Druke, helping scour Harlem, and of course Burbank, contact man, all show up here to help out The Shadow.
Joe Cardona, ace inspector of the New York Polie Department, and Commissioner Ralph Weston also play a sizable part in the proceedings. And The Shadow, in addition to appearing in his garb of black, also appears in disguise as Lamont Cranston.
Our proxy hero in this story is actually a heroine. She’s beautiful young Marion Delmar who gets mixed into things when one of The Lone Tiger’s ex-henchmen is eliminated. She’s a plucky young thing who makes a fine agent reporting to The Shadow.
It’s nice to see some old familiar places. Of course the Cobalt Club, haunt of Lamont Cranston, is present. But also we are briefly reintroduced to The Pink Rat and Steve’s Place, two underworld hangouts. Grogshops, as they are described in this story.
The Shadow’s famous girasol ring appears in this story. In these early years, The Shadow hasn’t yet taken to wearing the rare fire opal openly, as he was wont to do in later years when in his Lamont Cranston disguise. Here, he only wears it hidden beneath his black gloves when appearing as The Shadow. And he uses it as a means of identification, when he tells young Marion Delmar, “You will know this token! Like my voice, you will remember it!”
One thing that caught my interest was a description of the paper used upon which to write to The Shadow. Marion has received the special disappearing ink from The Shadow and writes him a report. She understands that it will disappear if exposed to the air for too long a period of time. So she seals the edges of the letter. Not the envelope, but actually the paper. There is an edge of gum around the paper which she licks and actually seals the paper from the air. That’s one that I don’t remember seeing before.
And remember all those injuries that The Shadow has taken during his many adventures? Apparently he’s learned from them, because when he damages his knee in an altercation with The Lone Tiger, he’s still able to give chase. We’re told that his limp barely delays him, for he has trained himself to a hobbling gait. Trying to reduce his dependence upon that mysterious vial of purplish liquid, I guess!
You’ll especially enjoy a clever death trap in this story. It’s the floor of an elevator which falls open, dropping The Shadow to a concrete pit far below. The falling elevator floor has become something of a cliche these days, but was fresh back then. And most effective!
The cover to this magazine is the famous one showing all The Shadow’s agents gathered around a table. It was cool seeing such a cover, because never before, or again, were all the agents portrayed together on one magazine cover. It should be pointed out that this scene never actually happens in the story, however. Yes, the agents do appear in the story. But never all together and around a table. I just wanted to make that clear...
This Shadow mystery is a fun one.
"The Muggers" was originally published in the November 1943 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Who was the mastermind behind the seemingly unrelated murders that were committed by a ruthless band of night marauders? They stalk the blacked-out streets of New York robbing and killing until The Shadow uncovers a savage organization.
The general story is a pretty straightforward one, if perhaps a bit routine by 1943. But it features a couple of unique elements that make it definitely stand out. Primary among these is that readers are finally taken inside the B. Jonas office. And then there’s also the box of painted blocks he uses to identify criminals. Both of those hold links to previous Shadow tales, and as such raise this pulp novel from the merely ordinary to something worthwhile reading.
Muggers -- human wolves who prey upon the isolated, innocent bystander who happens to wander into their evil trap. They beat up and rob anyone who crosses their path! And in this late 1943 story, it’s becoming an epidemic in New York. An epidemic that the police are unable to stem. And epidemic that only The Shadow can halt. The Shadow is the cure; the vaccine. Because The Shadow knows!
Yes, The Shadow knows there is more to this rash of muggings than meets the eye. It’s not simply a matter of isolated small gangs causing a multitude of individual problems. The Shadow knows that there is organization behind the chaos. Some master brain is organizing the muggers. And he has a sinister purpose in mind!
Historically, muggers date back to the 1840’s when footpads had molested the whole of Manhattan. These thugs patronized grog shops where they drank from big mugs that they carried away with them. On the street, they would clout passers-by with the mugs and rob them of all their valuables. Thus the term “to be mugged” was born. At least, that’s Walter Gibson’s take on the historical situation. Gosh, are these stories actually educational?
The time was now 1943, and World War II was enflaming the entire globe. New York was under dim-out conditions. This dim-out made the city ripe for assault and robbery. Modern muggers had traded the traditional weapons from heavy mugs to sharp knives, and had descended upon Manhattan like the human rats they were.
From Paris comes Alban Leroc, an Apache. No, not a Native American Apache, rather the Parisian kind. He organizes the many small gangs of muggers and teaches them the ways of the continental muggers. The knife, the garrote, the escape tunnels, the boxing in of victims, and all such evil strategy. But there is someone behind Leroc. Someone who has a sinister plan behind the apparently random attacks. Someone that only The Shadow can unveil!
Into this desperate situation, The Shadow calls Jericho Druke, mightiest of The Shadow’s agents, Harry Vincent, the most experienced of The Shadow’s aids, Clyde Burke, reporter for the New York Classic, Moe Shrevnitz (aka Shrevvy), who can pilot a taxicab through the twisting New York streets like no other, Cliff Marsland, who haunts the badlands purporting to be a crook, Hawkeye, the hunchy little trailer, Margo Lane, an attractive brunette who looked well in a minimum of evening gown, and chubby-faced Rutledge Mann, the investment broker. Commissioner Ralph Weston and Inspector Joe Cardona play a large part in the story, representing the official forces of law and order. Other than a few minor bit players like Miles Crofton and Chance LeBrue, just about everyone’s in this one! Even Senator Releston is mentioned, although it doesn’t actually show up.
As mentioned previously, this story is pretty standard Shadow fare. But there are a couple things that raise it from the ordinary. One of those is a visit inside the B. Jonas office.
Located in a rundown office building on Twenty-third Street, at the end of a third-floor hall, sat an abandoned office with the name “B. Jonas” printed on the glass of the door. It was here that Claude Fellows delivered secret reports to The Shadow in the very first Shadow novel, “The Living Shadow,” in 1931. This unlikely location was the secret message drop for The Shadow. After Fellows was killed in “Gangdom’s Doom” in December 1937, Rutledge Mann took over his duties, and Mann continued delivering his reports to The Shadow to the same location.
No one ever knew what took place behind that locked door. No one had the key, and from the cobwebbed appearance of the doorway, no one had entered it in years. All messages to The Shadow were placed in the mail slot, and in some mysterious manner, they would be retrieved by The Shadow.
The mystery of the B. Jonas office was finally revealed in this story “The Muggers.” Finally, he is invited inside by The Shadow. As author Walter Gibson explained, “As the door creaked inward, the cobwebs stretched. Walking under them, Mann stared upward, unbelieving. Cranston held the door open long enough for Mann to study the cobwebs thoroughly; they contracted when the door went shut.” The spider webs, you see, were artificial, made from rubber cement. All placed there to disguise the fact that the office was actually being used by The Shadow and his agents.
Of course, with the world war currently taking place, rubber was in short supply. But, as The Shadow explained it, “When it comes back in circulation, we can manufacture more of them.” The Shadow was nothing if not patriotic!
Once inside, Rutledge Mann discovers agents of The Shadow gathered together in an effort to identify the head of the Apache mob. This exact situation was portrayed on the cover to one of The Shadow magazines from four years earlier. The cover of “The Lone Tiger,” published February 14, 1939, showed all of The Shadow’s agents sitting around a table. It’s the only cover that ever showed all of The Shadow’s agents in one spot. Yet, strangely enough, that particular scene never occurs in the story itself. So it’s almost as if Gibson harkened back to that four-year-old picture and decided it was finally time to put the moment down onto paper. And so it is here in “The Muggers,” four years later.
So what was the cover of this issue? It shows an Apache killer holding a knife, threatening a girl in a skimpy bejeweled outfit. The scene was in the story, but personally, I would have preferred if they had re-used the old “Lone Tiger” cover with all the agents. And they could have saved money on artwork as well; I’m surprised Street & Smith didn’t think of it.
It would seem that once Walter Gibson dispelled the mystery behind the B. Jonas office, he no longer wished to use it. This was the last mention of the apparently abandoned office building on Twenty-third Street. Even though the magazine continued for six more years, the office was never again used or even mentioned. But I’m happy to report that the B. Jonas office made one final appearance in the 1994 Shadow motion picture. In the movie, it once again regained its mystique, and no one entered therein.
Another point of interest in this story is the set of building blocks that The Shadow’s agents use to help identify the head of the Apaches. These blocks have parts of a face painted upon them. There is an assortment of different kinds of noses. Many different eyes, lips, chins and so forth. By selecting the blocks that contain the features they remember, the agents place the proper blocks into a frame that forms a face. It’s sort a jigsaw puzzle approach, except the blocks are all regular in shape.
This story isn’t the first one that features the identification blocks. They first appeared in the January 1, 1937 story “Vengeance is Mine.” The cover of the magazine even showed the blocks in use, which was pretty cool. And it’s heartening to realize that six years later, those blocks were still useful.
Readers also get to see The Shadow in his sanctum. He continues to use his flashlight with the colored lenses to signal his operatives. And he battles the minions of evil with as much energy as ever.
It’s a story worthwhile reading for the trip to Twenty-third Street. Other than that, though, it’s pretty much the same as any other 1943 Shadow story. It gets a qualified recommendation from me.
John Olsen was first introduced to The Shadow in the early 1960's, tuning in to rebroadcasts of his adventures on KEX radio in Portland, Oregon. Several years later, John was drawn to a hardback book entitled "The Weird Adventures of The Shadow," containing three Shadow novels reprinted from the old pulp magazines. The pulp Shadow was a far different character from the beloved radio version, but the stories drew him in and opened his eyes to a richer version of the hero. Today, John is retired in Sherwood, Oregon. He has read all 325 of the old Shadow pulp mysteries and enjoys them so much that, as of this writing, he is well over half way through reading them all again for a second time.